Not all supplements are the same, Henrietta Norton argues. Over ten years ago, she had the idea of a food-based supplement company, Wild Nutrition. She started it in her garden shed; today, it’s selling across the UK and Europe, and now hoping to make more of an impression in the US market.
Trained as nutritionist, Norton was formulating supplements for British and European brands in 2010. While working for commercial supplement companies, she also advised individuals in a one-on-one setting with their specific concerns. Seeing hundreds of women in her private clinic, she started focusing on women’s health, particularly hormonal health. Meanwhile, Norton began had been writing a book on endometriosis. When her editors asked her to make recommendations for readers on what supplements could help, she was stuck. “I just couldn’t make any recommendations with integrity. That’s when I knew I had to create them.”
Food-based wasn’t an easy path though, Norton admits. “It’s a slower, more expensive way of making supplements, because of the sourcing involved. It’s less commercially viable, you could say. But it’s a better supplement.”
She knew, by having worked with clients who used a food-based approach to improve their hormonal health, that this was the right path forward, even if it was more expensive and challenging.
“Most of the synthetic ingredients used are petrochemical sourced. Not only are they less effective in the body, because our DNA is wired to receive nutrients through food, but they have broader implications. I strongly feel that human health is connected to planetary health.”
Vitamin C, she explains, is a common example. Vitamin C in a plant has 50 or so different compounds within it. “Yet the supplement industry focuses on one. Our body, though is incredible sophisticated, and knows how to use the other 49 fractions, and in fact benefits from it. The reason why I chose food-grown is not only because the evidence is there, but because it’s a very respectful way of supplementing the body. I believe that in order to create healing you have to support the body in its entirety.”
Norton started the company with her husband Charlie in 2013. Within three months, they were in Whole Foods in the UK. Thanks to a friend-turned-advisor who helped them structure the business, Norton says, they were able to deal with the quick scaling up required.
Today, at approximately 48 staff, most of whom are based in Lewes, East Sussex in the UK, Norton is looking to target new markets. While they do ship internationally, Norton is honing in on specific regions, such as the US, where interest in natural supplements is growing.
Doing food-based supplements has its challenges though, Norton points out: getting manufacturers on board was hard in the beginning, as they were less keen to deviate from their typical ways. The cost of food-based supplements can be 100% more than its counterparts. And sourcing ingredients requires scrutiny: “There’s a lot of options on the market but not all are equal,” she says referring to ingredients such as turmeric, mushrooms, and other herbs and spices found in their formulations. Plus, to pack in the required dosage, more product is needed per capsule: that can mean a heftier pill, which some consumers may not prefer.
Yet, despite the road bumps, Norton has been able to steadily build the business, and help frame the narrative around natural supplements in the UK in the past decade.
“There’s been a seismic shift in the supplement industry. Supplements are in the mainstream conversations now. They were disregarded before. Plus, we’ve learned that soil deficiency is high. Food is being sourced globally. So we are not getting all the nutrients our bodies need. And I’m seeing that more people are looking for natural supplements to remedy all this. Our founding reason for starting a company was to help educate and change up the way the industry works, and I’m glad that’s happening.”
Part of the educational component is achieved through a free 15-minute consultation that all customers are entitled to before buying any of their products. Trained nutritionists give one-on-one advice to ensure that customers are getting the right products. “It’s not just about putting products out there,” she iterates.
For Norton, building a business that reflected her values was integral. That’s why four years after launching the company, she began considering becoming a B Corp. In 2018, the company started the process, and were certified in 2021. “Sustainability is not only about upholding what we have done in the past, but exceeding that. What I like about B Corp is that we have to be reviewed every three years.”
On the environmental front, the company has aimed to be plastic-free. In addition, they chose to bring their fulfillment in-house so that they could reduce further packaging material. Now, they’re looking at cutting back, or offsetting, their carbon footprint. But there’s also the social component of the company that Norton wants to fine tune.
“Sustainability in the greater sense of the word is also about how can we look after our people sustainably.” Aside from hiring locally, and creating employment, Norton says the company made some changes to the employee handbook recently and has provided a slew of services to their staff for free: yoga, counseling, financial consultation, to name a few.
“Human health is as important as planetary health,” she iterates.